United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER
B. Pead, U.S. Magistrate Judge
parties in this case have consented to the jurisdiction of
United States Magistrate Judge Pead, including entry of final
judgment, with appeal to the United States Court of Appeals
for the Tenth Circuit. See 28 U.S.C. § 636 (c);
F.R.C.P. 73; (ECF No. 15). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), Plaintiff Brook Mills (Plaintiff) seeks judicial
review of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (Commissioner) denying her claim for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social
Security Act (the Act). After careful review of the entire
record, the parties' briefs, and arguments, as presented
at a telephonic hearing held on October 5, 2017, (ECF No.
24), the court hereby affirms the Commissioner's final
was 33 years old at the time she alleges that she became
disabled in January 2011 due to lower back pain, bipolar
disorder, depression, anxiety, diabetes, endometriosis, and
fibromyalgia (Certified Administrative Transcript (Tr.) 208,
221). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). Before she
stopped working in 2008, Plaintiff was a semi-skilled service
clerk for 11 years (Tr. 41, 71). The relevant time period in
this case is from Plaintiff's alleged onset of disability
of January 27, 2011, to the date her insured status expired
on September 30, 2013. (Tr. 208). See 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(c)(1) (defining “insured” for purposes
of a DIB claim); see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.131(a), 404.320(b)(2) (discussing insured status for
purposes of DIB benefits).
followed the five-step sequential evaluation process in order
to determine whether Plaintiff was disabled (Tr. 18-31).
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). As relevant
here, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments
including fibromyalgia, endometriosis, morbid obesity, right
wrist carpal tunnel syndrome, anxiety disorder, depressive
disorder, and bipolar disorder, but that she did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled any of the presumptively disabling
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix
1 (the “Listings”) (Tr. 20-22). The ALJ found
that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform light work, as defined in 20 § CFR 404.1567(b),
such that she could frequently handle with the right hand;
occasionally climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders,
scaffolds, or ropes; occasionally stoop; and must
occasionally avoid unprotected heights and moving mechanical
parts. Plaintiff also had mental limitations but could
perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks not at a
production-rate pace (such as assembly line work); make
simple work-related decisions; and occasionally respond to
the public. If Plaintiff required time to be “off-task,
” that could be accommodated by normal breaks (Tr. 24).
obtaining vocational expert testimony, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff's RFC precluded her from performing her past
relevant work, but not from performing occupations that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy (Tr.
30-31). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act (Tr. 31).
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
(Tr. 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial
review. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. This appeal
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court “review[s] the Commissioner's decision to
determine whether the factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence and whether the correct legal standards
were applied.” Mays v. Colvin, 739 F.3d 569,
571 (10th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Substantial evidence is “more than a mere scintilla,
” or such evidence as a “reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Lax v.
Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007). “In
reviewing the ALJ's decision, [a court may] neither
reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that
of the agency.” Newbold v. Colvin, 718 F.3d
1257, 1262 (10th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Where the evidence as a whole supports the
ALJ's decision, that decision must be affirmed,
regardless of whether the Court would have reached a
different result had the record been before it de novo.
See Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084.
challenging the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff asserts that
the ALJ (1) did not include limitations in the RFC related to
her carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, fibromyalgia, sleep
apnea, and mental impairments; (2) did not properly weigh the
medical source opinions in the record; (3) erred in finding
that her statements were inconsistent with the rest of the
record; and (4) failed to resolve a conflict at step five of
the sequential evaluation process (see generally ECF
No. 18, Plaintiff's Opening Brief (Pl. Br.) at 10-16).
The Court addresses each of Plaintiff's arguments and,
for the reasons discussed below, finds that the ALJ's
decision should be affirmed.
The Residual Functional Capacity Assessment Accounted for
Court concludes that the ALJ's assessment of
Plaintiff's RFC was supported by substantial evidence. In
particular, the RFC considered Plaintiff's severe
impairments, including obesity, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel
syndrome, her non-severe impairment of sleep apnea, and her
mental impairments including anxiety disorder, depressive
disorder, and bipolar disorder. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(2) (ALJ must consider both severe and non-severe
impairments when assessing RFC). When the impairments
resulted in limitations that were supported by record
evidence, the ALJ included and properly accounted for those
limitations in the RFC. See Young v. Barnhart, 146
F. App'x. 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2005) (unpublished)
(“The determination of RFC is an administrative
assessment, based upon all the evidence of how the
claimant's impairments and related symptoms affect her
ability to perform work-related activities. . . . The final
responsibility for determining RFC rests with the
Commissioner, based upon all the evidence in the record, not
only the relevant medical evidence.”). Each of
Plaintiff's impairments is addressed herein.